Maine Zoos, Aquariums & Animal Parks
The first thing that comes to mind about Maine is usually its expansive coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, accompanied by visions of the state’s historic lighthouses standing as guardians, and numerous sandy beaches and sheer cliffs. Zoos and animal parks may not even be a consideration – but they should be! The Pine Tree state is home to several intriguing and educational zoos, animal parks, and aquariums. A visit to Maine should definitely include checking out at least one animal park and one aquarium – if not more, as time permits! You and your family could even plan an entire vacation around visiting Maine’s aquatic and land attractions featuring amazing marine life and wildlife.
Aquatic Parks: Maine Aquariums
The state of Maine hosts two spectacular aquatic parks: the Gulf of Maine Aquarium in Portland and the Mt. Desert Oceanarium in Southwest Harbor. Each park has its own unique features and attractions, and promises a day of fun, combined with a learning experience, for you and your family.
Gulf of Maine Aquarium – Portland
This oceanside aquatic attraction is part of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), which gives you an idea of the educational value of the aquarium, in addition to its fun factor. The town of Portland, known for its “working waterfront,” is home to this non-profit marine science center dedicated to creating a state of “science literate” children. Part of GMRI’s strategy in accomplishing that goal is to offer numerous innovative learning programs free of charge.
Two of these outstanding programs include (1) LabVenture, which immerses children in hands-on experiments in lab stations featuring multimedia-enriched learning content about the Gulf of Maine’s marine life; and (2) Vital Signs, a field-based science program that teaches children about native and invasive species of marine and plant life.
The GMRI’s programs run from 8am to 4pm, Mondays through Fridays. For more information about general details, call (207) 772-2321. For more information about educational programs, call (207) 228-1650.
Mt. Desert Oceanarium – Southwest Harbor
The town of Southwest Harbor, on Mt. Desert Island, is home to the Mt. Desert Oceanarium. This aquatic attraction is another “teaching aquarium” where visitors can learn about marine life, as well as enjoy seeing it – and even touching it! Mt. Desert Aquarium especially focuses on Maine’s renowned lobsters and features a Lobster Hatchery, a Discovery Pool Touch Tank, a Salt Marsh Tour, and a Lobster Fishing Program. An upcoming feature still in progress, called Really Save the Whales, will help visitors learn more about these largest marine mammals.
The Mt. Desert Oceanarium is open Monday through Saturday, from 9am to 5pm, beginning in mid-May through late October. For more information and rate details, call (207) 288-5005.
Land Parks: Maine Animal Parks and Zoos
The Pine Tree state also has several animal parks and zoos, including the following well-known parks:
Kima Preserve – Mt. Desert, Maine
You may not expect to find “big cats” in a New England zoo, but the Kima Preserve in Mt. Desert is home to lions, tigers, and leopards, as well as North American wildlife like moose and black bears. You and your family will even see rare Tropical Rain Forest creatures such as lemurs, gibbons, and monkeys.
In addition to basic walking tours around the preserve, you and your family may request special opportunities for specific animal encounters behind the scenes with park staff members.
The Kima Preserve is open from 9:30am to dusk, from mid-May to late fall, weather-permitting. For more information and rates, call (207) 667-3244.
Maine Wildlife Park – Gray
The town of Gray is home to the Maine Wildlife Park, staffed by Maine Park Rangers. The park features over 30 species of wildlife native to Maine. These include birds such as the peregrine falcon and great horned owl; more common animals such as raccoons, white-tailed deer, moose, bobcats, and black bears; and less common animals such as mountain lions and endangered species such as the Canada lynx.
Entrance fees are as follows: children ages 3 and under, free; ages 4-12, $5; ages 13-60, $7; ages 61+, $5; groups of 15 or more, $3.50 each; and for a guided tour or school program, add $1.50 extra per person. Season’s passes are also available at $35 for individuals, and $70 for families (up to maximum of six members per visit).
The Maine Wildlife Park is open from 9:30am to 6:00pm, from mid-April to mid-November, weather-permitting. For more information, call (207) 228-1700.
Wild Kingdom – York
The renowned York’s Wild Kingdom in the quaint town of York Beach features a zoo, as well as a family-oriented amusement park. The zoo features exotic animals, such as an African lion, Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, mandrills, lemurs, and monkeys; as well as more common creatures, like the black bear, deer, pot-bellied pigs, and geese.
You and your family may also enjoy educational animal presentations, live animal interaction in the petting zoo, and an amazing visit to the vibrant Butterfly Kingdom featuring several species of South and Central American butterflies.
Entrance fees for the zoo only are as follows: $1 for children ages 3 and under; $9 for children ages 4-12; and $14.75 ages 13 through adults.
York’s Wild Kingdom Zoo is open from 10am to 5pm, from late May to late September, weather-permitting. For more information, call 207-363-4911.
Which Attractions Will YOU Choose?
Perhaps you and your family prefer seeing wildlife rather than marine life. Then again, in an ocean-bordering state like Maine, marine life may be just what you are anxious to see and learn more about. Ideally, though, you and your family could benefit from the fun and learning experience of seeing some of the inhabitants of both land and sea. Make your plans now to visit one or several of the Pine Tree state’s zoos, animal, and aquatic parks. You won’t be disappointed and you will create special memories for your family.